Ad Space – Skittles: Candy of Nightmares

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Skittles candies

The Promotions: (Warning: the last one gets pretty gross)

The Pitch:
Fear the rainbow! Taste the rainbow!

For a long while there, Skittles was the uncontested master of truly bizarre TV commercials. They made some brilliant ads that simultaneously made conventional boasts about the tastiness of Skittles, while also giving us such surreal, nonsensical, and straight up demented ideas and imagery, they couldn’t help but stick in people’s minds.

Like the guy who comes down with a case of Skittle Pox. Or the giraffe who eats a rainbow and then milks out Skittles. Or the strange little man who starts singing about berries and cream. (“Berries and cream! Berries and cream! I’m a little lad who loves berries, and creeeeeeeam!”)

But sometimes … sometimes they crossed the line from so bizarre they’re memorable to so bizarre they’re disturbing. Where that line is will of course vary from person to person, but for me, the three ads above are the ones that gave me the strongest sense of peering into a nightmare reality.

I still laughed at them, still enjoyed their strangeness, but it was a different kind of laughing at their strangeness. Less Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and more Being John Malkovich.

We get introduced to the guy whose touch turns everything and everyone to Skittles, and to the Pinata Man who must live in a world that doesn’t understand them, and the ads actively invite you to imagine how horrific their existence must be. And the third ad does all of that with the added benefit(?) of being super-gross.

I mean, it’s usually never a good idea to imagine what the characters in commercials do once the commercials are over, but here, it’s almost impossible not to … and it’s all deeply disturbing.

And yet, these ads never let their embrace of strangeness distract them from the main throughline of saying how great Skittles are. That’s something a lot of be-weird-to-get-attention ads forget about, so for that Skittles is to be commended … just maybe don’t watch these right before bedtime.